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New art work brings tale of Papatūānuku and Ranginui to life in Auckland

Māoridom's oldest story is being retold on a huge scale at Auckland's Aotea Centre.

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Lisa Reihana’s work Ihi is now a permanent feature inside Auckland’s Aotea Centre. Source: 1 NEWS

The work, by acclaimed artist Lisa Reihana, is a new take on the creation myth.

There's nothing small about Ihi, splashed across two massive floor-to-ceiling screens.

It's a digital retelling of the separation of Papatūānuku, Earth Mother, and her partner Ranginui.

"I think because of the scale of it, I want people want to know more. I want them to look at it and be excited by it," Reihana told 1 NEWS. 

"As a visual artist I'm able to bring to life some of those stories in a way that probably have never been seen before, but to give a sense of the beauty of our heritage."

It explores the relationship between Papatūānuku and her son Tāne, with the work also a commentary on the health of our environment.

"Our country has incredible places in it, but there's not much left, so we have to uphold it and look after that," Reihana says.

Commissioned by Regional Facilities Auckland, it's now a permanent feature inside the Aotea Centre.

Auckland Art Gallery director Kirsten Paisley called the work "absolutely groundbreaking".

"The size and scale - this is an architectural-scale video installation permanently installed in a public building," she says.

"It's a first in Auckland."

Ihi is part of a move towards more art in public spaces.

"These types of Māori artworks are becoming more and more common in Auckland as people seek to find the indigenous and Polynesian context for the city," University of Auckland art historian Dr Deidre Brown told 1 NEWS.

"We're seeing it more and more in terms of public art works, with Lisa Reihana's being a prime example, and also in other places too, public spaces such as the new train stations that are being built in the central city."

Reihana has taken her critically acclaimed art around the world.

She's now working with luxury shoe maker Christian Louboutin on a yet to be revealed project.

But her heart lies at home.

"I've been able to leave a lovely seed here, right in the centre of the city that I love so much," she says.

Ihi was unveiled tonight - but its story is not quite over, with the artist planning to add to it in the future.